Orange County Begins Removing Thousands of Homeless Along Santa Ana River

Santa Ana homeless (Frederic J. Brown / AFP / Getty)
Frederic J. Brown / AFP / Getty

Orange County officials have begun removing the thousands of homeless people that now line the 35-mile stretch of the Santa Ana River from Prado Dam to the ocean.

The Santa Ana River is the largest river entirely within Southern California. It stretches from the San Bernardino Mountains to the river jetty at the northern end of Newport Beach. Over the last couple of years, a substantial portion of Orange County’s official count of 4,792 homeless people have been camping along the river bed and the adjacent trails.

But that may be coming to an end, as law enforcement officials in Orange County have begun the first phase of clearing an area near the Angel Stadium in Anaheim where a homeless tent city stretches from the 5 Freeway to Ball Road. County maintenance workers have removed tons of trash that has included lots of alcohol bottles and many hypodermic needles.

The campers have made the County of Orange a laughing stock due to the high visibility of the multi-colored tents along the 22 Freeway.

The Western Regional Advocacy Project (WRAP), which was founded in 2005 by local social justice organizations across the West Coast to expose and eliminate the root causes of homelessness and poverty, blames the homeless boom on Republican presidents beginning with Ronald Reagan. WRAP alleges that Reagan and his successors have blamed inequality and poverty on “broken” people rather than the broken system.

The Democrat-controlled California legislature has been pushing for a “Homeless Person’s Bill of Rights” since 2012, which would spend an extra $310 million a year to fund new state bureaucracy and hygiene centers across California. The ;egislature’s most progressive wing is also advocating for the “Right to Rest Act,” which would “protect the rights of homeless people to move freely, rest, eat, and perform religious observations in public space.” But the bill would effectively give the homeless the right to live in any legally parked car.

Last year’s epic floods cleared out the riverside communities, but the campers came back quickly this spring. Even efforts by the Orange County Public Works to cement in the sides of the river have not deterred the homeless squatters.

Breitbart News has been reporting that a deadly California hepatitis A outbreak, which started in homeless communities and now stretches from San Diego north to Redding, is on the verge of reaching statewide epidemic status. The California Department of Public Health announced that in the first two weeks of January, there were 688 cases of hepatitis A and 22 deaths. Inoculations have been offered to the homeless, but many usually will not comply.

The Orange County Register has reported that the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has filed a federal lawsuit against the County of Orange for its efforts to fence off homeless entrants to the Santa Ana River, because the “residents are trapped within the confines of the 6-foot chain-link fences.” The county is also sued regularly for allegedly destroying homeless property during trash clean-ups.

There are homeless beds in shelters funded by private charities and government across the County. But those shelters often have rigid rules that the homeless do not want to follow, plus many of the homeless want to stay under the radar due to legal issues.



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